News Bites: April 2023


    Intake of Plant Compounds Associated with Brain Health

    Results of an observational study looking at plant compounds called flavonols suggests higher dietary intake of flavonol-rich foods is associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline.The study followed 961 Chicago-area participants (mostly women and white) in the Rush Memory and Aging Project for an average of seven years. Participants were ages 58 to 100 and had no known dementia at the start of the study. Cognitive function was assessed yearly, and typical dietary intake was assessed at the start of the study. Higher intake of dietary flavonols was associated with a slower rate of decline in brain skills like memory, ability to recognize spatial relationships, and the speed with which participants could identify differences in objects or shapes. According to the study authors, “participants with the highest levels of flavonol intake were on average younger, more educated, consumed fewer calories and were more physically and cognitively active than those with the lowest flavonol intakes.” These factors were adjusted in statistical models but may still have played a role in the study outcomes. Flavonols are found in many plant foods. Top sources consumed by participants in this study were kale, beans, tea, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes and tomato sauce, oranges, pears, olive oil, and wine. In addition to flavonols, these foods contain a wide variety of compounds that are active in the body. Basing your dietary intake on whole and minimally processed plant foods is strongly associated with better health overall. Protecting your brain is another reason to eat more of these foods.

    Blood Omega-3 Levels Linked to Lower Risk of Chronic Kidney Disease

    An estimated 700 million people worldwide suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD), which increases risk for kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, and death. A recent study looked at circulating blood levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in over 25,500 (predominantly white) people from 19 studies across 12 countries and monitored participants for signs of kidney disease over an average of 11 years. Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood largely come from dietary intake, including EPA and DHA from fish and shellfish, and ALA from plant oils, seeds, and nuts. Measuring omega-3s in the blood is an accurate, objective way of measuring intake of these fatty acids. Higher levels of EPA and DHA were associated with significantly lower risk of CKD and a lower rate of decline in kidney function. Levels of plant-derived ALA were not associated with CKD risk. While this study does not prove cause and effect, it provides one more reason why it can’t hurt to include fish (especially oily fish like salmon, trout, and sardines) and shellfish in your diet at least twice a week.

    Walking Around 10,000 Steps a Day Associated with Lower Dementia Risk A study that monitored over 78,000 adults in the U.K. found that a higher number of steps per day was associated with lower risk of all-cause dementia, and this association was stronger in people who walked more briskly. Study participants, who were mostly white and had an average age of 61 years at baseline, wore accelerometers to measure daily step count. Those least likely to develop dementia over the nearly seven years of follow-up took around 9,800 steps a day—close to the popular goal of 10,000 steps. While this study does not prove cause and effect, it adds to a body of knowledge that being active (along with consuming a healthy dietary pattern and not smoking) is one of the best tools we have for preventing dementia.

    New Recommendations on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

    The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)—an independent, volunteer panel of national experts that makes evidence-based recommendations to improve health—reviewed all available evidence on the effects of vitamin, mineral, and multi-nutrient supplements on risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and death in the general adult population, as well as the potential harms. Based on available evidence, they recommended against the use of beta carotene or vitamin E for the prevention of cardiovascular disease or cancer. They found insufficient evidence to weigh the risks and benefits of, or make recommendations for, any other vitamin, mineral, or multi-nutrient supplements for prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or death. More than half of U.S. adults report using at least one dietary supplement, and nearly a third use multivitamin-mineral supplements,. Until there is more evidence these supplements improve health, focus on the quality of your food intake, activity level, sleep, and stress levels rather than looking to supplements to keep you healthy.


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